Today, the NY Times NY Region section has a story updating the status of the cellphone-service-in-the-subways story. Four bids were submitted back in January, after the MTA asked for bids in August 2005 (and the service providers asked for an extension in December, but who's keeping track), and at least one bidder was asked to submit a revised bid. American Tower's CEO James D. Taiclet wouldn't give details of the revised bid, lest competitors be tipped off, but did say this:

"This really hasn't been done in the U.S. on this wide a scale. It's very complex technically, very expensive, large capital expenditures. You've got multiple parties, the operator of the system, the carriers, and the MTA, all of whose interests ultimately have to be aligned to make it successful."

No kidding - the MTA has enough challenges, ensuring that daily service goes smoothly. Installing a wireless system underground in 227 stations is very daunting. But someone special makes a guest appearance in the bidding speculation: Former senator Alphonse D'Amato, who has been hired as a consultant by one of the bidders, Transit Wireless. Transit Wireless emphasizes that D'Amato is only a consultant, and not a lobbyist - even though he is good friends with MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow.

The MTA is only interested in wiring stations, not the tunnels, which turned off some potential bidders. But Taiclet told the Times that even wiring the stations would create competitive advantages for some providers ("Our service reaches the subway...the others don't") and that the short periods on the phone, checking email, messaging, etc., at stations would add up. We bet by the time the MTA is ready to award the job, cellphones will be passe and people will communicate via ESP.

Photograph of man scrolling through his cellphone's menus from VincenzoF on Flickr